Traveling companions are better than apps

We recently took a 10-hour drive to New Jersey for a family reunion. (Not in one day. That's craziness.) This trip went significantly better than the last really long car trip we took because of several things:
  1. I wasn't the only adult in the car with my son. My husband was able to come, too.
  2. My mother (thanks, Mom!) came with us as well, so our son had his favorite traveling companion in the backseat with him.
  3. Electronic devices.
When my son got bored of using his LeapPad, he asked for the iPad. When he got tired of that, he asked to play games on Nana's Kindle. Granted, he did other things in the car as well (drew pictures, played games, told us stories), but because he was cooped up in the car for so long I relaxed my normal limited media use rules.

When we returned from the trip, I started thinking about my media rules and wondering (once again) if they are too strict. And then I read this study from the folks at UCLA, which shows that children who spend a significant time staring at electronic devices have difficulty reading other people's emotions.

What this is really about is social interaction. (Which, when you are in a car with people for 20 hours in a span of five days, is not really a problem.) But I think I'll leave our rules in place for now. My son gets less than the recommended 2 hours of screen time per day, and most of it is educational. Like many parents, I'm striving for that balance of integrating technology into his life without it becoming his preferred gateway to communication (as in, I do not want to receive text messages from him if we are in the same house.)

Any tips for distracting children while you are in the car would be greatly welcomed at this point. We are about to take another long trip in a few months, which means I should start planning now. Tell me in the comments.

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